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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grandparents Breakfast

Is there anything in the world more special than grandparents?

My children are so blessed to have wonderful grandparents who love them. I have such fond memories of my grandparents. I was especially close to my mother's mom. I have such wonderful memories of the two of us playing board games together. She loved to play any game - board games, cards, you name it!

Last week Ann Catherine had a Grandparents Breakfast at her school. My parents were able to go with her. She was so excited! And so were they :)

After they ate breakfast with her, she took them to the Book Fair in the library. Funny, I sent money earlier in the week for her to buy two books, but she came home that day with four more. Kudos to whoever thought to schedule Grandparents Breakfast during the Book Fair :)

As they drove away, Lily Baker started crying because Mimi and Poppy weren't coming to her Grandparents Breakfast. I explained to her that she wasn't having one at her school, but she wouldn't hear it. I guess grandparents have a sixth sense, because after they ate breakfast with Ann Catherine my parents stopped by our house and asked if they could take LB to school. She was thrilled!

So they both had their special time with Mimi and Poppy. And Gammy and Gramps are coming to visit soon for Lily Baker's birthday. They can't wait!

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is a Tough One

We had a heartbreaking conversation with our kids tonight.

It was about our friends' dog, Toby. Toby lived in the house behind us, but we loved him like he was our own. If the gate to our backyard was ever open, you could be sure to find Toby.

Toby was attacked by a dog in his front yard Friday night. We were in our backyard and went running when we heard the screams. Chris and John took him to an emergency animal clinic. After helping Angie calm the girls down, I took my girls home and put them in the bathtub.

Ann Catherine peppered me with questions as I bathed her that night. What happened to Toby? Why did he get hurt? Would he be okay? She couldn't stop thinking about him.

I was honest with the girls and told them Toby was hurt badly. But I told them that he was with the animal doctor, who was going to try and help him.

The next morning when Ann Catherine woke up, she asked me if she could draw a picture for Toby. She drew him, Maura Kate and Celia and wrote "get well soon" at the bottom.

That morning at breakfast, I told the girls that when we said the blessing we needed to pray for Toby. Lily Baker went first and asked God to "please fix Toby." Ann Catherine asked God to help Toby "because Maura Kate loves him so much and wherever Maura Kate goes, Toby goes." It was so sincere and so simple. God must love to hear the prayers of children.

Toby started doing better, and we thought he was going to be okay. But when we got home from Bible study last night, Angie texted me that Toby had passed away. We were heartbroken. The girls were in bed asleep and we wondered how we would tell them.

This morning Lily Baker was playing with her Silly Bandz bracelet, which was a doggie. She told me it was Toby. "He's at the animal doctor, Mommy," she said. My heart hurt as I remembered that she had no idea that Toby was gone.

I called Chris to tell him and we agreed we would tell the girls after dinner. As we sat down to eat, Lily Baker asked if she could say the blessing. "Momma, I want to pray for Toby," she said. Chris and I just looked at each other and I told her that was fine. "Dear God, please help Toby feel better," she began. It just never occurred to her that Toby wouldn't get better.

We ate our dinner and when the girls were finished, we told them we needed to talk to them about something.

"Girls, you remember how Toby got hurt the other night?" I asked. They nodded. "And you remember how we prayed that God would help the animal doctor fix Toby? Well, the doctor tried but he just couldn't fix Toby."

Their eyes widened as if they knew exactly what I was going to say.

"So Toby went to Heaven," I gently explained.

Ann Catherine just stared at me. But Lily Baker - oh, Lily Baker. She lowered her head and her bottom lip began to tremble. When she looked up at me, she had tears in her eyes.

"Mommy, does that mean I won't get to pet Toby again?" she asked as those tears began to multiply. The question was beautiful, innocent, sincere and absolutely gut-wrenching. For the first time in her short life, she was faced with the realization that someone she loved was gone and wasn't coming back.

Have you ever watched your child struggle with pain? It was one of the saddest things I have ever seen.

I began to cry, and I looked at Chris for guidance. Tears were streaming down his face. "Toby's gone, baby," he said quietly to Lily Baker.

"But, I loved Toby!" she said. "He was the best dog in the entire world." And she put her head down and began to cry.

"Come here, baby," Chris said and she ran into his arms. He loved her while she cried.

I realized that something good had to come out of this.

"Girls?" I asked. "What do we know about Heaven?"

"Melissa's there!" Ann Catherine said. And just like that, Lily Baker got a big smile on her face.

"And it's a wonderful place, right?" I asked.

"Yes!" they both answered.

"Maybe Toby's floating on a big cloud!" Lily Baker said.

"Maybe he's met my angels," Ann Catherine said.

And they both ran to the window and began to look at the sky. I think they were looking for Toby.

Lily Baker wanted to take Ann Catherine's get well card to Maura Kate and Celia. It was raining, but that couldn't stop her. She put on her raincoat and Chris walked her to their house. She handed the girls the picture and Chris said, "Lily Baker, can you tell the girls where Toby is?"

She didn't say Heaven.

She said, "With Melissa."

I learned two things tonight. First of all, teaching a child about death - any death, whether it's human or animal - is hard.

Secondly, my girls are so completely comfortable with the idea of Heaven. Because of Melissa's death, they've been exposed to talk of Heaven more than most other kids their age.

In their eyes, if Melissa's there, why wouldn't it be wonderful?!

Before bed tonight, we talked again about Toby. I told them that Melissa had seen how much they loved playing with Toby and she was so happy to be able to finally play with him. Chris asked the girls if they thought Toby was licking Melissa's toes in Heaven and they got a big kick out of that.

It was nice to finally laugh.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Very Belated Thoughts on Swim for Melissa

As I type this, I'm sitting under my pergola as the rain falls. I love the sound it makes. It's early Saturday morning and Lily Baker is snuggled up to me with her head on my shoulder.

September is almost over and I still haven't posted about Swim for Melissa. It's not that I'm being a big slacker or procrastinator (although sometimes I am). It's just that I have been completely overwhelmed about how to convey my thoughts about this year's event.

As most of you know, Ann Catherine swam for the first time this year. She formed a team of cousins and friends called "Melissa's Miracles." They did great! They raised $15,900 and came in second place. Ann Catherine raised $6,575 on her own, and was the top overall fundraiser in the Swimmer category. We are so proud of her!

Overall we raised $165,000 through the 5th annual Swim for Melissa. We will use that money to purchase a Giraffe OmniBed, Giraffe Incubators and a Family Support program and liaison to serve parents and families during their infant’s stay in our NICU. I'm so excited about that!

A very sincere thanks to all of you who played a part in this event - whether your children swam or you donated money (or both!). We could not do this without your support and we are so very grateful for it!

To say that I was emotional as I watched Ann Catherine swim would be an incredible understatement. Several times I tried to blog about it, but I just couldn't find the words to convey my emotions. Recently I wrote an article about the experience for Huntsville Hospital's Source magazine. I thought I would just place that article here. It really sums up my feelings from that event.

Swim for Melissa - In My Own Words
By Amy George, Melissa's Mother

We knew the day was coming. We had looked forward to it for four years. We knew it would be emotional for our family.

Even so, we weren’t quite prepared for the way we would feel when it finally happened.

Since 2006 my husband, Chris, and I had watched as hundreds of children swam laps in the Hampton Cove Pool to raise money for the Melissa George Neonatal Memorial Fund at Huntsville Hospital Foundation.

And on this 5th anniversary of Swim for Melissa, our daughter – Melissa’s twin – got her turn. She formed a team of friends and family called “Melissa’s Miracles” and she swam in memory of her sister.

Ann Catherine knew why she was doing it. “To help the babies in the NICU,” she would tell anyone who asked. We’ve never shied away from her own NICU stay. She knows she was born early. She has heard the stories, seen the pictures and watched the videos. It is a very real part of her life and we want her to know about it.

But there are things she can’t understand. That “born early” means, in her case, 14 weeks early. That she only weighed one pound, fifteen ounces. That her twin sister, Melissa Suzanne, was even smaller weighing only one pound, nine ounces. That for 68 long days we visited her in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children and sat by her bedside as doctors and nurses took care of her. And that as we walked into that NICU every day, we carried the loss of her sister with us.

She knows about Melissa. We’re honest about that, too. “She’s our angel,” Ann Catherine says when asked about her twin. And she knows that Melissa’s Fund helps those precious babies like her and Melissa.

But what she doesn’t know, what she couldn’t know, is what it meant to her daddy and me to watch her swim those laps at this year’s event. With her inner tube around her, she jumped in and began to swim. As I watched with our three-year-old daughter, Lily Baker, in my lap, I began to cry. I cried about how far Ann Catherine had come in five years. How could this be the same child who was hooked up to monitors and a ventilator helping her take each breath? How could this be the same child who was so frail I could count her ribs the day she was born? How could those arms that were splashing around in the water be the same arms that once lay still as her daddy’s wedding band dangled around them?

Then I cried for Melissa. I cried that she couldn’t be here to do this, too. I cried that she would never have the chance to splash around in this pool. I cried that this wonderful fundraiser that brings hope to so many babies had to come from so much pain. And I cried because I missed her.

Then I realized something. She was here. Because on this day, this 5th annual Swim for Melissa, that’s just what Ann Catherine was doing. She was swimming for Melissa. If Melissa couldn’t be there to do it, then Ann Catherine would do it for her. For every lap she swam, it was as if Melissa was swimming right by her side. I always feel Melissa’s spirit at this event, but never more so than this year.

That’s when my tears of pain turned into tears of joy. Ann Catherine swam for Melissa. And I know in my heart, that Melissa was cheering her on.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

She's Come a Long Way

It is absolutely surreal to me that I am at that point in my life where I am attending parent/teacher conferences.

But, alas, I am.

Chris and I attended our first one this afternoon. First of all, I am crazy about Ann Catherine's teacher and her absolute love for the children in her class. It is a beautiful thing.

Secondly, Chris and I thought we were going to hear things such as: how she follows directions, does she play well with others, how she traces her letters and colors her pictures.

Oh no. Let's just say kindergarten has changed since Chris and I were there.

They tested the children the first week of school and were able to show us how she did in sound fluency, letter recognition, etc. It was unreal.

It's not that I thought she was just sitting there coloring pictures all day. But I am just absolutely amazed at what she has learned so far and what they are doing in kindergarten. The progress she has made from the first week of school until now has just been unbelievable. The first week she was so tired she couldn't see straight. School was "just so long!"

It's still long, mind you. But she can't wait to do her "homework" each night. And every spare moment she has, she's drawing pictures or writing words in her notebook. She has settled in nicely.

My favorite part was when her teacher shared her journal with us. This will become a treasured keepsake for years to come. And the picture she drew of me? Let's just say I had no idea my head was THAT large! :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Look! A Rainbow!!

We took the girls for a bike ride around the neighborhood after dinner tonight. Chris and I walked alongside them as they pedaled.

Chris and Ann Catherine were up ahead. As we rounded a corner, I saw Chris pointing up at the sky to show Ann Catherine something. I noticed there were birds on top of a house and I thought he was pointing at them.

As Lily Baker and I got closer, I looked up and saw it. A rainbow! A beautiful, vibrant, colorful rainbow.

"Look Lily Baker!" I said pointing upwards. "A rainbow!"

Her face broke out into the most beautiful smile and she began to giggle. "I see it, Mommy!" she said.

Ann Catherine jumped off her bike and took off running towards us. She threw her arms around Lily Baker, gave her a great big hug and they looked at that beautiful rainbow.

As you know, we call Lily Baker our rainbow. But as I looked at that gorgeous sign from God, I felt more. It was as if Melissa was shining down on us from Heaven. For those few beautiful seconds, as I looked at one of God's most beautiful creations, I felt her spirit so strongly. It's hard to describe, but boy was it powerful!

It was a reminder to me that Melissa is okay. It was a reminder that she's sitting in the lap of the Creator of the Universe. It was a reminder that she is perfect and completely whole. And it was a reminder to me that she wants her family on Earth to be happy.

As Lily Baker started to ride again, she began shouting at the top of her lungs, "Everybody! Listen to me! I just saw a rainbow!!"

Yes we did. God's promise to our family that everything is going to be okay. How amazed I am that He loves us enough to send us these out-of-the-blue blessings.

Thank you God for the rainbow!

Fall in the South

Ahhh, fall in the South.

The leaves are changing color, college football reigns supreme....and it's 95 degrees.

I'm sorry, make that 98 degrees according to the weatherman on the radio this morning.

Don't get me wrong. I love warm weather. I was absolutely miserable during our cold winter last year.

But 98 degrees in late September?

Fall clothes are everywhere, but I cannot get in the mood to buy them. Ann Catherine tried on a cute pair of boots this weekend, but they didn't fit. I told her not to worry - she couldn't wear them right now anyway.

My kids have been wearing the same clothes since April. I guess that's one thing you can say about the South. We get our money's worth out of summer clothes! :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's Lost is Found!

Have you ever lost something that you loved?

I have.

A few years ago, Chris bought me a beautiful diamond necklace for my birthday. It had three vertical diamonds - one for each of our daughters. I loved it.

One day, about a year ago, I opened up my jewelry box and couldn't find it. I turned my bedroom upside down, looking everywhere for it. I searched for weeks and couldn't find it anywhere.

I was devestated. When it comes to jewelry, I am a traditionalist and a minimalist. I wear the same pieces each day and they all mean something to me. I was absolutely heartbroken.

I told Chris that I couldn't find it. He understood it was an accident, but I could tell he was bummed about it. I told him that I thought it was in my bag that I take to commercial shoots. For some of my shoots, I take additional clothes and bring along other jewelry to match the different outfits. I thought for sure the necklace was in one of the pouches in that bag. I was almost positive I had worn it to a shoot and taken it off to wear another necklace. But after searching the bag a gazillion times, I just couldn't find it.

It has bothered me - and driven me crazy - for the past year.

Well, the other day I was getting ready for a shoot and cleaning out that bag. I looked down, and saw the glimmer of a sparkling diamond.


Apparently the pouch it was in had a little slit in it, and the necklace had fallen through it. I seriously can't tell you how many times I searched that bag and never saw it.

I have been wearing it again, and the girls just love it. I explained to them that each diamond represents my three daughters: Melissa on top, because she's the oldest, followed by Ann Catherine and Lily Baker on bottom.

Yesterday as Ann Catherine was admiring it she said, "Mommy, I think Melissa should be the middle diamond."

"Why?" I asked.

"Because she's the special-ist of all the angels."

Oh yes she is. Maybe she had a part in that necklace finding it's way back to me. I am so happy to have it back!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Highlight of my Day!

Do you want to know my favorite part of the day?

I mean, my absolute, 'gets my heart racing, puts a giant grin on my face and has me smiling from ear to ear' part of my day?

When I pull my car up to the front of that car pool line, look in my rear view mirror and see my baby girl walking out of school.

My little peanut is wearing her backpack that's as big as she is. She scans the car pool line looking for my car and when she finds it, that giant grin on her face is as big as mine and she comes running.

Then she jumps in my car. And she starts talking a mile a minute about what she did that day.

And I have my little girl back with me again.

Without question, the best part of my day!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Girls, They Are A-Changin'

"Lily Baker, cut the cord!" Chris said in exasperation the other day. This came after LB whining for what seemed to be the fifteenth time, "Hold me, Mommy!"

There's no question she has been clingier than usual lately. But I just figured it was a phase she was going through.

And then it hit me.

I had taken Ann Catherine's place.

I have blogged before about how close my girls are. They are only 17 1/2 months apart. Ann Catherine was so young when Lily Baker was born. She never even realized what had happened. We brought LB home from the hospital, and so it was. Ann Catherine never missed a beat.

Up until now, they have done everything together. Because of their ages, they've always been in the same classes for activites and at church. And even though they weren't in the same class at daycare, they were just across the hall from each other. Once during a tornado drill at school, Lily Baker was scared. The teachers went and got Ann Catherine and she sat next to LB to calm her down.

As far as Lily Baker is concerned, Ann Catherine has always been there.

Until now.

Ann Catherine moved onto elementary school. Lily Baker stayed at preschool.

Ann Catherine moved up to a new class at church. Lily Baker stayed in the preschool class.

Ann Catherine moved to the 5-year-old class in gymnastics. Lily Baker is in the 3-4 class.

Ann Catherine is in the 5-year-old class at dance. LB is...well, you get the picture.

Two girls who have been joined at the hip for three years are, all of a sudden, separated.

And Lily Baker is wondering what in the world happened.

As suffocating as it's been for me, I understand. And my heart hurts for LB. I don't think I had ever realized how much she depended on Ann Catherine.

So I'm trying my best right now to fill those little size 11 shoes of Ann Catherine's.

As much as Ann Catherine's life has changed in these last couple of months, so has Lily Baker's. I had prepared myself for the change that Ann Catherine would face. But I hadn't realized that AC growing up would affect Lily Baker as much as it has.

I keep telling people that we are a family in transition. Change is the name of the game at the George household lately. Even though I know that change can be hard, change is also good.

But try telling that to Lily Baker.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Going Back in Time

“I can’t believe you’ve been holding out on me!” I said to Chris when I got home Friday. “This CD is so going in my car!”

Let me back up a little.

I was driving Chris' car that day while mine was being serviced. I shot some commercials in Decatur that morning and was on my way to pick up Lily Baker at preschool. When I'm driving, I'm usually a talk radio kind of girl - news, sports, doesn't matter. But on this day, I wanted to hear some tunes and was scanning all over the radio trying to find something I wanted to hear. I came up empty-handed and decided to see if Chris had a CD in. He did and I hit play.

Oh my.

It was a CD full of songs from various artists circa ’97 or ’98.

That’s around the time that Chris and I started dating. Back when I was the weekend anchor at WHNT and Chris was playing for the Huntsville Channelcats. Our favorite TV show was Ally McBeal (it came on Mondays on Fox at 8 p.m. – how do I remember that??), we were addicted to the Game Show Network (at the time they only aired ‘70s game shows and it was worth watching for the bad clothes alone!) and our biggest decision was where to go eat after the hockey games.

You know how music from a certain time in your life just takes you back in time and makes you so happy? Let me tell you, I cranked that puppy up and rocked out the whole way back to Huntsville. I’m quite sure I busted a speaker in Chris’ car.

I eventually arrived at LB’s preschool and picked her up. As we pulled away, I turned the volume back up (not quite so loudly!) and listened to the songs. I looked in my rear view mirror and there was my Lilypalooza. She wasn’t even on my radar when these songs first came out. How could that be?

Life is all about stages. Each new chapter, each new decade, brings a new series of highs and lows. Each segment is perfect in its own right, and quite painful in another.

And sometimes, at the most unexpected moment, a song from “way back when” takes you back in time. And you remember how awesome that part of your life was.

Then you see your three-year-old daughter in the backseat. And you realize that this chapter is pretty awesome, too.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What's in my Car?

Chris took my car in today to get it detailed. It's the first time we've done this since we got it. We got my car the month after Ann Catherine was born, so you can just imgine what was embedded in between the seats.

That was confirmed when the guys in the service department said,

"We've never pulled so many goldfish, crackers, cheerios and barettes from a car. EVER!" They estimated it around 700,000 and something.

I laughed out loud when Chris told me that.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From My Daughter's Lips to God's Ears

Sometimes your children say things to you and you think, "I never want to forget that!" This morning I had one of those experiences while I was getting Ann Catherine dressed for school.

AC: Mommy, can I tell you something?

Me: Anything you want.

AC: Do you know why I think God created you? Because he knew you would be such a great mommy.

Oh my word.

That's all I've ever wanted - to be a good mommy and wife. Even though I know I fail miserably sometimes, if my daughter thinks I'm doing a good job then I must be okay.

I don't think anyone has ever said something to me that meant more. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fun on the Lake

What an awesome holiday weekend we had!

We celebrated Labor Day weekend with our friends and their children. Our friends, Will and Andrea, rented a home on the lake and a pontoon boat to celebrate their son's birthday. Chris, the girls and I joined them along with our friends Ken and Jammie and their kids.

The kids played all day Saturday - swimming in the lake, watching movies, playing basketball. That night we all watched the Bama game. I wish I had a picture of the kids - all six of them were decked out in their Alabama outfits. So cute!! Maybe they'll all be there together one day :)

Sunday after church we headed back out. We went for a boat ride on the lake and the kids loved it! I got some great pictures:

We had a blast and spent today just hanging out at home. Lily Baker slept until 8:45 a.m. - that DOES NOT happen at our house!! Chris and I did some work around our house and the girls just played. It was so nice.

Now it's back to our routine. We put the girls down at 7:30 to try and get them back on a schedule. But what a great break from what has been a crazy month!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Night the Girls met St. Nick

In honor of football season starting this weekend, I thought I would share this.

In May, the girls and I went to the beach with my parents. My sister, who lives in nearby Pensacola, called and said Nick Saban was going to be speaking to their alumni group that night. She and my brother-in-law were going, but they found out at the last minute that he was doing a "meet and greet" and would autograph items free for children. Were we interested in letting the girls come?

Why yes I was!

My sister had been told that he would either:

1. Sign an item for the children, or
2. Have his picture made with them,

but not both. I opted for his autograph for the girls. So Mom and Dad scooped up the kids and off they went to the mall to get some Bama gear. They got a National Championship football and an Alabama hat so each girl would have something.

They arrived and got in line. Once the girls got up there, Coach Saban said hello to the girls and signed their items. Then he said, "Would they also like their picture made with me?" My parents weren't expecting that and didn't have a camera. Luckily, my brother-in-law was standing nearby with his camera and snapped the picture. (Okay, okay - so he's not looking at the right camera. You take what you can get!!)

My mother said he was so incredibly kind to the girls. We always see the focused and intense side of him and my mom said it was so neat to see this other softer side of him.

So the girls got their picture made with arguably the greatest college coach in the country, and had no idea what all of the fuss was about.

Maybe years later when I show them this picture they'll be impressed :)

Roll Tide!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Back to the Lunchroom

When Chris and I were trying to decide whether to leave Ann Catherine where she was and do half-day kindergarten, or go to "big" school (which I refer to this way because of the size) and do full-day kindergarten, one thing kept coming back to me.

The lunchroom.

No, I wasn't having flashbacks of square pizza and corn. I was worried about how in the world my little girl was going to navigate in that giant lunchroom.

I mean, she's only five!! That's crazy, right?!

Yesterday I went to eat with her. Let me tell you this: if kindergarten teachers were paid on what they do at lunchtime alone, they could retire to Bermuda.

I watched in amazement as her class of twenty 5-year-olds walked in silence to the lunchroom. Once there, they knew the routine. Those who brought their lunches took their places at the table. Those who were getting a tray got in line. Once they had their food, they walked to the table and began to eat. At the end of lunch, they all knew what to do as they threw away their food and lined back up. I believe AC's teacher could be a miracle worker.

Oh yes, at times they were five-year-olds being five-year-olds. But I was struck at how grown-up they also seemed.

I was also struck by how, sometimes, I don't give my daughter enough credit.

In this past month at big school, she has learned more about responsibility and independence than I could ever have taught her. As badly as I want my children to stay young sometimes, she's growing up. And that's really the point, isn't it?!

"There's no way my child can walk into that big school alone and find her class!"

But she does. Every day.

"There's no way she will know what to do in that big lunchroom!"

But she does. Every day.

She has proven her mother wrong time and time again this past month. She's growing up. And slowly, I'm dealing with it. :)